Diocesan Stories

St. Thomas Chaldean Eparchy

“No one smiles at a piece of bread like that”

Sr. Mariam Rose, D.M.I.

I can't imagine my life without the Eucharist. From the very first moment that I believed that the Eucharist is the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, I have never ceased to be in awe of this beautiful mystery. As a Religious Sister and Bride of Christ, I consider the Eucharist to be my life source and my place of intimate encounter with the Lord. In my religious order, we have an hour of adoration every morning,we attend daily Mass, and then throughout the day we pray seven acts of spiritual communion, and 14 acts of adoration before the tabernacle. Our day is centered around the Eucharist, to say the least. I know that every time I come before Jesus in the Eucharist, I am delighted in, I am received with joy and affection, I am consoled, I am seen, and I am loved. I also know that whatever my day looks like, whatever I struggle with or rejoice in, I have the incredible blessing and privilege of bringing it all before the Lord in the tabernacle, constantly surrendering my life into His hands. I can never fully articulate the difference that the Eucharist makes and has made in my life, but I pray to always be a living witness to the transforming, healing, and mysterious power of this Sacrament of love.

I grew up culturally Catholic. I believed in the faith my parents handed down to me, and I knew in my head that Jesus loved me, but I don't think I was ever truly convicted of that truth in my heart until I was around 13 years old. I struggled to believe that what looked like a mini tortilla in the monstrance or in Mass was actually Jesus.

I ended up learning very quickly that the Lord loves to reveal Himself to those who seek Him. The summer after the 8th grade I signed up to volunteer for the summer camp program at my home parish. I met a seminarian there who changed my life. He always had a big, beautiful smile on his face, and was always overflowing with joy  – it was the kind of joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, from giving your life totally to God.

The volunteers would have adoration after all the campers went home, and so this one afternoon I walked into the church early and the only other person there was the seminarian. He was on the far side of the church, and there was one ray of light shining from the window right onto his face.  It felt like I was in a movie. I noticed the way that he was in awe of the Eucharist. He smiled at Jesus and I could just tell that at the moment  – he wasn't on earth; he was in Heaven.

I very vividly remember thinking two things to myself as I noticed him praying:

One: No one smiles at a piece of bread like that. And two: I want the kind of joy that he has.

I prayed in faith, and started asking Jesus to show me His presence. I was convinced that if that piece of bread was the real presence of Jesus Christ, then nothing else mattered. And if nothing else mattered, then Jesus deserved all the praise that I could humanly give Him.

Seeing the joy of that seminarian in prayer also sparked this burning desire to give my life totally to Jesus and live in that same joy of the Holy Spirit that I saw in that young man. Over time, my relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist deepened tremendously, that burning desire continued to grow, and it became very clear that the Lord wanted my life to be a life of adoration, a life fully united to him through religious life. Many years later, I can say with full confidence that the Eucharist IS JESUS, and nothing else matters.

'As You have commanded us, we, Your humble, weak, and feeble servants, have gathered here to celebrate Your great mercy toward us which cannot be repaid. For You, our Lord and our God, have assumed our humanity that we might live in Your divinity, exalted our lowliness, raised us from our fall, revived our mortality, forgiven our debts, justified our sinfulness, enlightened our minds, and overcome our enemies. And for Your help and graces toward us, we raise to You glory, honor, thanksgiving, and praise, now, at all times, and forever. Amen.'

This is my favorite part of the Chaldean Liturgy. For me, this prayer is a beautiful summary of why I go to Mass, why all of us should go to Mass and receive the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, celebrating and praising the great mercy of God through which He sends us His only son, who assumes our humanity so that we can live in His divinity. He humbles Himself, taking the form of a slave and hiding Himself in bread and wine, so that we may approach His most Sacred Heart without fear. The Eucharist is the sacrament of love, and it is out of the unfathomable love of the Lord that He allows and even desires sinful and messy humans like myself to receive Him, and be transformed into Him.

These words from St. Therese the Little Flower deeply resonate with me: ‘Heaven for me is hidden in a little Host where Jesus, my Spouse, is veiled for love. I go to that Divine Furnace to draw out life, and there my Sweet Savior listens to me night and day.’

I love adoration because it is where Heaven meets Earth, and where I, unworthy as I am, get to behold and adore the majesty of Jesus, be deeply touched by His gaze of love, and hide in his warm embrace like a little child. There is no better place in the world, and nowhere else I would rather be than right at the feet of Jesus in the Eucharist.

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“I offer it in prayer to someone else”

Vanessa Denha-Garmo

When I was younger and used to complain about the bullies at school, my dad used to tell me to pray for them. As a kid, I was annoyed that he would even suggest such a thing; they were mean kids, after all. ‘Why would I pray for someone who hurt me?’

He continued with the same message as I grew older. I remember early on in my career, working full time as a reporter, I complained how some people at work were toxic. He would, once again, tell me to pray for them. Finally, I got upset and I asked him why he would tell me to pray for them. These were not good people, I declared. ‘That’s the point,’ he said. 

He asked me a question that I still think about today: If they had peace in their hearts, would they hurt me? 

It was one of the earliest epiphany moments in my life that I remember. God calls us to pray for those who persecute us. I’ve experienced many adverse situations over the years. Today, the world is very divided and with social media, meanness seems to have increased ten-fold since I first encountered the bullies on the playground. 

Years after my dad’s death, I can still hear his voice in my head saying, ‘Pray for them, brati’ (‘my daughter’ in Aramaic). As I grew older and my faith grew, I prayed more for these people. I would dedicate a Rosary to them or pray for them in adoration. However, I began to see the most profound changes when I started to offer my Eucharist in Mass for such people. 

For several years, there were two people who I prayed for the most while offering my Eucharist for them. Over time, my relationship with one strengthened, and the other one is no longer part of my everyday life. It was as if God was showing me the kindness in the one person who I grew closer to while he moved the other person right out of my life.

Every time I receive communion, I offer it in prayer for someone else, particularly someone who upsets me the most. This practice has given me such peace. Although I was praying for others, it was my own heart that was healing. My hope at every Mass is that my prayers offer peace to those for whom I offer up the Eucharist.

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